From U.S. Shock To Top Destinations, a Country-By-Country Breakdown According to Global Competitiveness

A recent report from the U.S. Travel Association ranks the United States 17th out of the 18 top travel markets.

For decades, the United States of America boasted a robust and well-defined tourism economy. However, decades of underinvestment and a lack of focus and coordination from federal policymakers caused the U.S. to fall behind, while other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, actively apply robust strategies to increase travel and grow economic output.

The U.S. risks losing 39 million visitors and $150 billion in spending over the next ten years just due to excessive visitor visa wait times. But there’s still a chance to turn things around.

Understanding the Trend

The study ranked countries using four criteria: National Identity; Brand & Product; Identity, Security & Facilitation; and Travel & Connectivity. The U.S. finished last in National Leadership and lagged in Identity, Security & Facilitation.

Countries scoring the highest — the United Kingdom, France, and Turkey — boast innovative and decisive measures to increase tourism to their countries post-pandemic. Using these four standards allowed the identification of countries that made critical decisions to allow foreigners entry.

Popular Tourist Destinations

Italy, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates finished fifth, sixth, and seventh, respectively, followed closely by Spain, Germany, and Greece. Warmer island destinations came next, including Thailand and Australia.

South America was represented by Brazil, coming in 12th, with Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Mexico, and Singapore all ranking ahead of the United States. China finishes off the list at number 18.

Where is the U.S. underperforming? First, many of these countries have a dedicated Minister of Tourism. In contrast, the U.S. has an Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Travel and Tourism, a position that is currently unfilled and unfunded. They also have ease of access, eliminating barriers to getting into the country through favorable visa-free travel policies for foreigners. These countries have also eliminated lengthy customs wait times, which appeal to travel-worn visitors.

Here is a quick overview of where to go and what to do in each of the world’s most popular tourist destinations of 2024.

The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom takes the top spot for 2024’s hottest travel locations. The royal family appeals to travelers worldwide, and those venturing to the United Kingdom can visit Buckingham Palace or other historic places, such as Stonehenge, Big Ben, and London Bridge. Experience a traditional English tea while catching a live performance in London’s famed West End.


The French are no strangers to tourism. Coming in at number two overall, the famed Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum have long drawn crowds to the streets of Paris. Travelers can munch on a croissant as they stroll along the Champs-Élysées before venturing into wine country to experience the rolling vineyards of Bordeaux. Visitors can enjoy a bottle of wine and pair it with a famed French cheese for the perfect picnic among iconic views.


Turkey is the least experienced of the top three tourist spots, yet it boasts incredible cultural highlights that draw countless tourists yearly. The Hagia Sophia was originally a cathedral during the Byzantine Empire and remains one of Istanbul’s cultural marvels. The Blue Mosque is known here for its intricate blue tiles, which give the building its name. Travelers can experience a Turkish bath or end their day feasting on kebabs and baklava for dessert.


The Italians have long boasted a popular tourist economy due to ease of access and its array of historical and architectural delights. Though Italy has fallen to fourth place, there are plenty of destinations to explore. Travelers can visit Rome, a city famed for its Colosseum and Pantheon, and for art lovers, a quick stop by nearby Vatican City provides the famed images of the Sistine Chapel.


Canada is a vast nation with much to see and do. At number five on the overall list, it offers something for everyone. Nature lovers can visit Banff National Park or the famed Niagara Falls. Those more inclined toward city life can enjoy a trip to Vancouver or experience the French influence in Montreal.

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates, number six on the list, is another lesser-known tourist spot, although it exhibits some of the most famed buildings in the world. Travelers can visit Burj Khalifa in Dubai — the world’s tallest skyscraper. Or, for a more luxurious experience, they can check out the humanly engineered Palm Jumeirah, an artificial archipelago shaped like a palm tree that hosts several high-end resorts.


Spain is ripe with experiences due to the diversity of its 17 unique autonomous communities. Falling at number seven on the overall list, Spain is no stranger to tourism. Travelers can immerse themselves in the culture of La Rambla in Barcelona, visit one of several museums in Madrid, explore the architecture of the Alhambra, or take in a flamenco show in Seville.


Located in the heart of Europe, Germany is easily accessible and offers a little bit of something for every traveler on the list. Visitors into history can visit the Berlin Wall or Neuschwanstein Castle for a long look back into the days of yore. Travelers who enjoy a good pint won’t want to miss the Oktoberfest festivities in September of each year.


Greece is the last European country on the list, rounding out the first half of the top destinations in 2024. Greece is a historical delight, from the Acropolis in the capital of Athens to the ancient ruins in Delphi. If history is not a priority, Greece has an island for that. Travelers can enjoy the whitewashed buildings of picturesque Santorini or the nightlife of Mykonos close by.


Thailand is the first Asian nation to make the list (and number 10 overall). This country is rich with beautiful tropical views and cultural diversity due to its unique global location. Visit the Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok, a magnificent example of Thai architecture built in 1782. Just north, the ancient city of Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, providing a glimpse into the grandeur of Thailand’s past.


Australia is no stranger to worldly top travel lists; this year is no exception. From the Great Barrier Reef to the Sydney Opera House, there is something for all travelers. Visitors can also explore the beauty of the Australian Outback with its unique vastness of vegetation and wildlife.


Brazil is the first and only South American country to represent the top travel list in 2024. Brazil is a cultural hub that offers lively examples of city and scenic activities. Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is wonderful for exploring. Or travelers can relax on the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. Visitors can also adventure in the famed Amazon Rainforest with its diverse ecology and incredible views.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia may come as a surprise to see on a top travel list. However, the country has deeply invested in tourism post-pandemic, influencing a mecca of travelers to visit each year. With various regions to experience, Saudi Arabia is quickly becoming a tourist hub. Travelers looking for a modern city experience can explore Riyadh, the birthplace of modern Saudi life.

South Africa

South Africa, at number 14 overall, features several travel hot spots that allow for adventure, culture, and fun. Kruger National Park enables travelers to witness the vast beauty of the African Savannah and see the “Big Five” — lion, buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros, and leopard. Then, visit one of the Seven Wonders of Nature — Table Mountain in Cape Town. This flat-topped mountain offers panoramic views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean.


Mexico, number 15 on the list, is another well-known travel destination. History buffs can explore the ancient ruins of Chichén Itzá and then relax on the vibrant beaches of Cancún. Travelers can move inward to the heart of the country and explore the nation’s capital, Mexico City.


Representing another Asian country and coming in at number 16 overall on the 2024 travel destination list, Singapore boasts a diverse mix of Indian, Malay, Chinese, and other influences. Travelers can get a feel for this diversity by visiting Chinatown and Little India and sampling some of Singapore’s unique cuisine.


Travelers visiting the United States can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of places to experience. Each city is unique, and it can take serious consideration to assemble an itinerary. While the United States sits at No. 17, there is something for everyone to explore stateside.

Popular destinations include the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon in Arizona, New York City’s bustling Times Square, and vibrant New Orleans in Louisiana.


China, coming in last on the 2024 travelers’ list, has always been a tourist delight. The Great Wall has attracted throngs of tourists for years, and other gems, such as the Forbidden City in Beijing, are must-sees while visiting. Travelers weary from fighting crowds can even escape with a cruise along the Li River in Guilin.

These are just a few of the highlights of each location named in the study by the U.S. Travel Association. Each destination has much more to offer regarding natural beauty, cultural experiences, and gastronomy.

Georgia Konidari | Wealth of Geeks

This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


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